I have used the excellent QTH.com classifieds site for many years to buy and sell radio equipment. I think it’s a great alternative to eBay.
I subscribe to the QTH.com classifieds newsletter and, this morning, Scott (KA9FOX) sent the following warning, which I am publishing to help spread the word. In summary, QTH.com is still a great place to buy/sell equipment, but they, along with other classifieds sites, have seen an increase in scam activity. Know the signs:
Dear QTH.com Ham Radio Classifieds user:
We’ve seen an alarming increase in the number of scammers utilizing our website (and it seems most other ham radio classified sites, too, based on reports coming in). I wanted to take this opportunity to explain what some of these scammers are doing, in hopes it will better protect you from them, when you are selling equipment on the QTH.com Classifieds at http://swap.qth.com.
Common scammer traits:
1) They will use some else’s callsign, and they will create an email address that contains that callsign, usually with a free email provider like gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc. They sometimes pose as foreign callsigns (especially UK and Spain) but recently have been using USA callsigns.
2) They will sometimes post “For Sale” ads, but also will sometimes answer “Wanted” ads. Usually the prices are a little too good to be true.
3) They will use pictures of equipment they have found on the Internet (they don’t really own the equipment).
4) They seem to like payments via Western Union (no protection for the buyer), but will also use PayPal (hoping to drain their account before the buyer realizes they have been scammed).
5) They seem to know ham radio jargon. For all we know, these scammers are hams, but we can’t be sure.
6) They are sophisticated enough to use “proxy servers” so their IP address cannot be easily detected. This makes it difficult for us to block the scammers. We are constantly tweaking our filters to block these guys when possible, but it is a constant cat and mouse game.
What can you do to protect yourself?
* Ask for a phone number and call the person before agreeing on any deal. This is probably the #1 way to expose the rats.
* Check to see if the email address they used matches what is listed for that person on their QRZ.com profile. It could be a red flag if there is a mismatch.
* Be especially cautious of dealing with foreign hams. Not all foreign hams are scammers, of course! Just be extra careful!!
* Never use Western Union. Be very cautious of using Money Orders and Cashier’s Checks. PayPal and Credit Cards seem to be the best option, as far as having any buyer protection. Money Orders & Cashier’s Checks are perfectly acceptable if you are absolutely sure who you are dealing with.
* Read all of my “Safe Trading Tips” at http://chat.qth.com/viewtopic.php?t=12
About 100,000 ads are placed each year in the QTH.com Classifieds, and only a tiny, tiny fraction wind up being fraudulent. I do not want to scare you into thinking that it is unsafe to trade online. Rather, I simply want to arm you with knowledge, so that you will be able to sniff out the bad guys, and stay safe.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
73 – Scott KA9FOX
QTH.com Ham Radio Classifieds